27 September 2010

MI familia, and friends :)

travel to the homeland to introduce X to the base of her family tree (and extended "family").

so, we really wanted X to meet her family and friends back in MI before she wasnt a "baby" anymore. once we figured out flight prices (outrageous! we thankfully could use daves frequent flyer miles to buy one of the tickets) and daves work schedule (we thought he might have to go to a meeting in boston) we settled on sept 22-27 for our visit!

flash forward to us the night before leaving...we didnt pack as smoothly as our last trip, nor did we leave the house quite as clean, but it turned out okay in the end and we were able to get a good amount of sleep to start our journey.

wednesday: we woke up at 6a to get ready for the day. X was confused when we got her up. it was still dark! we made it to the airport without incident and got in line at delta. ugh. they didnt have our seats together, they couldnt modify my ticket, then they found out our credit card never got charged for my ticket which was why they couldnt modify it, and then they had to edit Xs information (we had booked our tickets over the PHONE to avoid just such issues. idiots.). thankfully they didnt charge us for our luggage, but they did waste 45 minutes of our time. ick.

made it through security and customs and X took a nice nap. i boarded the plane as late as possible (though some dudes heading to vegas were later than me) and we were off to MI!

the flight was great. X played, stared at people, pooped, made us change her diaper in the bathroom where there wasnt a changing table (note to self: just change her at your seat next time), napped, and was happy when we landed. when we got off in the familiar mcnamara terminal i swear my heart skipped a beat. aaah, the comfort and familiarity of home. :)

we rounded up baggage and easily located my dad and grandpa who were at the curb to pick us up. so nice of them to come get us. they were able to meet X and get a few quick interactions in while dave installed our car seat. then we were off to grandpas house. X got a nap (after some convincing) and i was able to listen to the male chatter/banter through the wall from the bedroom: reminiscing about the ol' days, war stories (which i swear we never heard my dad talk about when we were kids), and dogs. the voices of my dad and grandpa have always been distinctive to me, and listening to them through the wall was like listening to rain on a rooftop, or the breeze rustling tree leaves. very soothing, and it transported me back in time.

then, once X woke up, joy of all joys, i was able to sink my teeth into a glorious coney dog from senate coney island. a good, old-fashioned michigan coney dog was on my very short list of absolute requirements while we were back home. and yum, i enjoyed it. this trip was off to a good start.

(my dad, X, me, my grandpa dohring. am i the only one who knows how to smile?)

then, we were back in the car on our way over to my friend georgettes house (or rather the eatons house, chuck and dave were friends back in college too). they were letting us stay at their house that night, and were making us dinner. a few other friends were coming by and we were excited to see them. georgette made zucchini, pasta with squash, bacon, and goat cheese, garlic bread, and salad for dinner. delish! we were able to catch up with phil, julie, jen, and james. plus, jen informed us that she will be adding another babe to our college group in march (and baby turkey is arriving in november!). apparently X is a trailblazer. she is also a gift collector. our friends showered her with UM gear (yes!) and a toy bin decorated as a monster (i can see this monster themed stuff is going to keep coming, which is so cool!). it was so nice to have a calm dinner with friends to chat and catch up and have them meet X in an environment that was fairly easy on her.

(the lovely eatons, and X in the dress uncle phil gave her when he came to visit)

thursday: after a morning nap at georgettes, daves parents arrived to drop a car off for us. we were supposed to all go over to ann arbor together, but daves grandma needed to be taken to the hospital (she had shingles! which they were able to diagnose right away thankfully). so, we went to ann arbor alone. which worked out fine because we were able to just wander around and see what had changed since we left back in october 2008.

as we got out of the car, i asked dave "so, any bets on how long it will take to see someone we know?" he guessed an hour, but wasnt very optimistic. then we went walking, and lo and behold, our feet took us to jerusalem garden. fancy that? and we ran into a guy dave used to work with at UM IT-computing. so...20 minutes or so was how long it took to find someone. hilarious.

anyway, i was happy as a clam that i got to dive, face first, into my most favorite bowl of lentil soup. h.e.a.v.e.n. havent been able to find anything else that will fill that void. yum. another item checked off my "to-do" list. i also enjoyed my falafel and majadra rice.

after lunch, X needed to sleep. i popped her in the carrier and she whined until she was bounced into submission. it was hot and sticky out, so i dont blame her for being grumpy about having to sleep on me for naptime. with her asleep, we were able to head over to kerrytown and check out the high-end shops. and, we did happen to stumble onto a new find. in a new location (though, completely new to us) was the most gorgeous baby store i have ever seen, elephant ears. vibrant, unique clothing was jumping from every corner. they had clothes, shoes, outerwear, accessories, high chairs, cribs, baby carriers, toys, strollers, bath time stuff, eating time stuff, sleeping time stuff. all really nice stuff. we had no trouble spending time in there while X was napping. in the end, we bought a pair of shoes and a picture frame. i found the staff to be extremely lacking (or maybe im just spoiled by the folks at nurtured) and annoying, so i didnt want to spend anymore money there than we "had" to. ha.

after shopping, X woke up and we drove to central campus. our only ann arbor MUST do was to drop off daves old ass laptop computer. the one he had used all during grad school that his department had paid for. since it was basically obsolete when we left for france, the IT guy let him take it with us, but now we both have new computers so this old thing was just in the way. we left it in the CC Little geology building for the IT guy to deal with with a little farewell love pat.

then, since we were on central campus, we were close to my old (undergrad) lab and my preggo co-worker was in town from virginia finishing up some experiments. we called her and she was free to come down from the lab and meet up with us briefly. lisa is getting ready to have a baby girl in a few weeks, and it was fun to get to see her before the arrival. another fun perk was being able to spend a few minutes with my old boss sue. a great first mentor, it was lovely to catch up with her, plus, she is always so enthusiastic about what dave is doing (her husband is a professor in anthropology at UM).

and then, X was spent. we barely made it to our ann arbor hotel intact, but thankfully we got there in time to convince X to take a nap. we werent able to meet up with my old kellogg coworkers or ARCH coworkers :( but i hope they understand. and, since X didnt stay asleep for long enough, she woke up from her nap tired, which meant that our visit with friends lily and ercan went poorly as well. they were kind enough to come to us, at the hotel, but it still couldnt save X from her grumpy state. after several failed attempts to calm down and try and get her to agree to eat, they left early so X could wind down from her overactive day. it was great to see them for a short time anyway, and we thank them for being understanding. :)

friday: X woke up early after finally getting some good rest. we decided to take advantage and check out the hotel pool. she seemed to be quite confident in the water and had a good time with dave. afterward, while X was trying to get a nap (ha!) dave went and got brueggers bagels for breakfast. its normally not my most favorite bagel place, but having been without bagels for so long, they actually tasted good.

after breakfast, we loaded up and headed to my moms homestead in dearborn. my grandma has lived in this house for more than 6 decades, and all of my aunts and mom were going to be there. such a wonderful experience to be able to have everyone in one spot. we were able to eat lunch, visit, take pictures, and catch up for a while because X took a nice long nap while we were there. must be something comforting about great-grandmas house. :)

(four generations of thomas girls at the dearborn homestead)

but, the visit had to end at some point, and we wanted to start moving before rush hour. unfortunately our route (I-94 east to I-75 north) isnt the most pleasant for traffic avoidance, and of course there was construction. it took us over an hour and a half to get to clarkston (more than twice what it should have). ugh. but, we were able to settle in and await dinner with daves cousins from louisiana who had flown up to visit daves grandma (not knowing she would get sick of course).

it was great for us because X got to meet more family, and we hadnt met daves cousins wife yet. welcome to the family liz! AND, they are adding a new family member in february (congrats!), so it was great to see them for many reasons. dinner was simple but tasty. daves dad made ziti and tomato sauce with homemade fried chicken. and dessert...my favorite dessert of his (aside from his elusive key lime pie)...totally from scratch apple pie. heaven! and i for once totally dug into it guilt-free because X has been taking so many of my calories for breastfeeding that i wasnt concerned about all the fat in the crust. yummy yum yum.

saturday: woke up to the news that daves grandma had fallen and cut her head at some point (she didnt remember when) and needed stitches. mary ann was basically with her ALL day. :( so, we had to help daves dad get the house ready for guests. we were having a gathering so that remaining family could meet X. the atmosphere felt less energetic without mary ann (though i know she was dying to be there) but the party went well and we enjoyed ourselves. daves childhood friend paul came over, several of mary anns friends came over (such nice friends, though i would expect nothing less from people who surround mary ann) to meet her grandbaby, my family came (my mom, al, and my aunt/uncle/cousin drove all the way from grand rapids), and daves louisiana cousins were there. X was showered with gifts again and we all had a nice visit and we appreciate all of you for coming!

(great aunt jean with X and my cousin linnea [shes famous, she was nominated for an ESPY])

later that evening, mary ann was able to come home knowing grandma was safely spending the night at the hospital to be watched for a concussion (just protocol). also, daves cousins from cleveland arrived. barry and joanie have liam (4) and neela (1) who are both born in april (X joins them in being april babies). and we were surrounded by kids! running around, playing, talking. fun to see where X will be soon enough. plus, joanie came with a bag full of girl clothes for X. i always loved hand-me-downs as a kid (they would come from "cool" older neighborhood girls), so i hope X appreciates them.

sunday: had breakfast at the whipps with daves cousins. after everyone was done we packed up our cars and drove over to the hospital where daves grandma was. dave and his cousin barry went for a quick visit (no way was i or X going into a hospital, let alone to visit someone with shingles) and then we headed over to northville.

my friend georgette was graciously opening her home to us again, plus friends. our college pals (the ones who had the STELLAR baby shower for us) were going to gather, along with some old childhood pals. of course, this would be a perfect time for one of my famous crippling tension headaches to show up. cringe. i tried to sit and chat with the early arrivals but i ended up having to lay down for an hour. X came up for a nap then, i fed her, she went to sleep and i summoned the will to rejoin society. i had squandered my precious time to see and chat with everyone, though i was able to touch base with everyone in some way or another. i know, since they are good friends, that they know that i love them to bits just for getting in the car and heading over, and i know they can forgive me for being a rude gimp (i hope. please?).

(my friend katie and her daughter isabel. our moms actually met in a prenatal group. katie and i are 10 weeks apart and iz and X are 6 weeks apart. pretty neat.; dave and X with carla [paul, daves childhood friend, not pictured] and daughter lily. lily is almost exactly a year older than X.)

the party petered out and we cleaned up and were able to enjoy a wonderfully simple, and delicious, dinner with just the eatons. so chill and quiet. we just loafed on the couch like the old days and ate our homemade pasta (it was frozen, they didnt whip up a batch after all that party hosting), homemade tomato sauce, and veggie meal on the coffee table in front of the tv. warm glow of happiness...

monday: woke up to our last day in MI. we hung out at the eatons until georgette went into work (she went in a little late. yay.) and then my dad and grandpa came over to get us. we made a very brief stop at my aunt and uncles house in plymouth before X had had it. we barely made it to my grandpas with our ear drums intact, but with daves help she was able to get a nap in and we munched on sandwiches before heading to the airport.

(X giving us a smile [finally] while hanging out with pappy)

at the airport, we were delayed for about an hour and a half. thankfully X was very patient. we hung out in the airport as long as possible. then, when we boarded, they came over and told us that we couldnt sit on that side of the plane with a baby, and wondered how we had been assigned those seats. i dont know, you idiots did it!! but anyway, without a big show, we made it to halifax and it was already past Xs bedtime. she found the patience to wait for the shuttle to the off-site parking and for the ride home. it was past 11p at that point and she happily went to bed. good little girl. :)

such a busy, busy trip even though we had hoped to remove lots of the running around we had done at christmas, we found ourselves still caught up in wanting to see as many people as possible. its just so hard to say no. its not easy just visiting your former home. you want to see everyone, do everything, explore the new things, and find time for yourself somewhere in there. so, yeah, we did not succeed on that front. but, we were thankful we did get to see so many people we love, thankful that X got to meet them, and we look forward to returning. :)

19 September 2010

Bridge over so-so water

more new exploring this weekend.

we chose to go back to the same general area as last weekend and do a few different things. there was a restaurant we were interested in and dave found a small provincial park we thought we'd check out.

our first stop was bridgewater. a non-tourist town on the south shore. a river divides the town into two parts, the commercial/strip mall part and the downtown/unique shops part. our restaurant choice, the wildwood cafe, was on the "downtown" side.

we parked, walked in to the uncrowded restaurant (it was about 1:30p), and chose a seat. the menu had a decent variety and was all mexican-inspired (apparently one of the owners is actually from mexico). i wanted the chicken soft tacos and dave got a panini with their fire sauce. the soup of the day was also spicy black bean soup, so i needed a bowl of that.

while waiting for the food, we noted all the local art that spiced up the walls and made their ikea furniture more exciting. X busied herself by pulling on the tablecloth and putting the silverware in her mouth. eventually our food came (though it was missing the beans i had requested with my tacos. grr.) and we were excited to dig in. my tacos involved handmade tortillas and had a much more traditional presentation than i had seen in a while. they were tasty, but my meal was gone in less than 10 bites. :( and while daves sandwich was pleasantly spicy, it too was rather small...and our soup was nowhere to be seen. when we flagged down the waitress, she blankly looked at me when i told her we would still like our soup. and, when it finally arrived it was a let down. while it was definitely spicy, it was void of any texture. there were no beans, corn, chicken or anything in the soup. it was basically spicy stock soup. boo. anyway, by then we were ready to leave, in fact, we left their extremely tempting dessert case untouched.

(my chicken tacos; X and her spoon)

then, just to see if bridgewater had anything else to offer, we wandered down the rest of king st (their "main" street). we popped in to a few shops and stopped to get daves grandma a present. she likes to make bead necklaces, and we found a bead store selling strands of semi-precious stones all indigenous to nova scotia.

(classy joint in bridgewaters downtown)

back in the car, we drove to chester...for more food. the kiwi cafe was just getting ready to close but they kindly made me an egg and bacon sandwich and we got some sweets as well...of course. their food isnt as good as i would hope, but i like the cheerful atmosphere and happy staff.

and then, with a reasonable amount of food in our bellies, we headed to the nearby graves island. its a small provincial park, and it really doesnt have much to offer, but we just wanted to do something minor, so it served our purpose. we parked on top of the islands hill and walked down through the trees to the water. i enjoyed, as always, the gradient of pine to salt scent as we got closer to the water. and, even though it was a short walk it turned out to be a great way to end the day. good idea nib. :)

(on the rocky "beach"; in the woods with the evening sun sparkling through the trees. love this picture of us)

13 September 2010

La-have, not

a new place today. finally.

it feels like a hundred years since weve gone anywhere new in nova scotia. my normal antsy limit is about a month (as i must have mentioned before). looking back, its been since june that we went anywhere around here, and technically that was in new brunswick. so i finally said "lets just pick something and drive out to it. i dont even care what!" well, i should have been a little more choosy, but i did get my wish to see/do something new.

shortly after X woke up, we hit the road heading south to the coastal area of lahave. we actually stopped in east lahave and took the cable ferry over to lahave proper. just something random to do that i thought might be interesting. there is literally a metal cable attached to both banks of the river underwater and a flat boat that can carry about 15 cars moves back and forth on the cable every 15 minutes. terribly exciting. but, it was a nice crisp morning and the view was new to us.

(on the cable ferry)

when the boat landed on the lahave bank, we drove off and took a left so that we could stop in to the lahave bakery. weve seen some of their bread being sold around halifax and i was never really impressed, but i thought it would be better to try things straight from the source before giving my final judgment.

so, we found a place to park and entered the warm bakery to see what we would find. it was definitely busy and it had that buzz of comfort and community, so it was off to a good start. we stood in line and i looked at the local-made jams, pickles, etc while some older ladies tried to get X to smile (it was a no go). when it was our turn, dave ordered a panini and i got the breakfast wrap with local bacon and unsweetened iced tea.

we found a counter seat and waited for our food. daves panini came quickly so i entertained X while he ate. it was a rather small and unimpressive sandwich (both the ingredients and the bread). we then sipped on the tolerable iced tea while we waited for my food. it took FOREVER, so X was restless by the time my oily egg and veggie wrap came. ick. the bacon was great though. probably the only thing worth stopping for, though definitely not worth the time i had to wait for it.

worst of all, X was pushed a little beyond her limit for a nap because of our long wait. back at the car she was so irritated and hungry that she couldnt calm down on her own. dave had to bounce her until she was calm enough to eat, and then she promptly went to sleep. and there we were, in the car, in the parking lot, letting her nap on me...for 1.5 hours. ah, good times.

it was enough time to see a few boat owners ride up to the bakerys boat dock, tie up among the yellow adirondack chairs, get some morning treats and drive off. not that the "treats" were very good (we bought and consumed a scone and two bars of theirs also. ack.), but the boating up to a bakery thing was pretty damn cool.

anyway, X finally woke up, and at least she was happy. after a car seat diaper change we were on our way in search of better things. we attempted to check out a few local beach areas, but they werent inspiring in the windy greyness that the day had turned into. so, we headed headed back toward home.

(fresh from a nap)

not wanting to let the day go down in flames, i decided we should stop in mahone bay. i wanted to drown my sorrows at the biscuit eater cafe. i got a sandwich, dave got a black tea, and we shared a dark chocolate coconut brownie with cranberries. and yes, it was every bit as good as it sounds. and not too sweet, just the way we like it. thank you.

(pretty gift shop in mahone bay)

after that we were back at home and another weekend had vaporized with barely a trace of excitement. at least we reminded ourselves how to get out and explore again. and hopefully we can do it more during the fall color change this year since X made me miss it due to "morning" sickness last year.

(signs of fall in mahone bay. X seems interested.)

04 September 2010

Goodbye earl

its hurricane season again.

after "surviving" two hurricanes last year, initially it didnt phase me when they started talking about earl...then i realized we had a baby. if the power was out for a long time, what the hell were we going to do? we had to be a little more thoughtful about the consequences than we were before. however, i lacked the required motivation to totally prep the apartment because, pre-earl, we were living in what felt like a the center of a sauna.

the 3-4 days preceding earls arrival we experienced some of the most brutal days on record here in halifax. what had been an unprecedentedly lovely summer had turned sadistic. every day the weather channel read something like "88 degrees, 'feels like' 106." no joke. it was horrid. and since this type of weather is rare in these parts, air conditioning is uncommon. and we, we had only ONE fan. i get severely grumpy when forced to live in hot and humid conditions, and with a hot baby sticking to me all day, i was constantly at the end of my very short and frayed rope.

two nights before earl was to arrive, i couldnt take it anymore. we pricelined a night at the snazzy marriott on the waterfront. two big beds, air conditioning, and someone else cleaning up after my mess in the morning. yes please!! worth every penny (i mean, $72 is a small price to pay for some sanity). anyway, we woke up the next morning refreshed and with a little more patience. all we had to do was deal with the last 106 degree day and then a hurricane and we would be free and clear. ha.

the evening before earl came i was sitting on our front stoop with X. in a 30 minute time period we actually felt the wind change. cool air was being brought to us via earl. yay! i actually welcomed the storm. our apartment was still rather toasty that night because it was hard to evacuate all that icky air with just one fan, but earl was definitely bringing the temperature down.

before we went to sleep, we filled up water bottles and hoped the few canned goods we had would be decent enough options to eat, should we have to get that desperate. when we woke up, things still werent really starting. we watched the early signs of earls arrival from our apartment building. of course, there were the requisite number of "locals" walking around outside without rain gear, making it look like it was shaping up to be any other day (sometimes i wonder what planet these people live on. i mean, a hooded sweatshirt in driving rain is a sight ive seen one too many times here.).

anyway, dave and X decided to get a shower in before the storm crashed us. this was around noon. X got all clean and bundled up just as the power was going out...dave had to rinse off in the dark. ha. cut to us a couple hours later, hungry, because we kept assuming they would restore power almost instantly (this was the longest we'd lost power since we have been here). we finally broke down and opened a can of black beans, rinsed them and put them in tortillas. we also decided it was worth it to open the fridge quickly to get the shredded cheese. not the worst thing ive ever eaten but im definitely glad those cavemen discovered fire.

(post hurricane shower)

we passed the time inside trying to entertain X and distract dave from remembering he was missing the first UM football game of the season. we were fairly successful, and were even pleasantly rewarded by X giving us some enormous naps. good girl! and luckily, when we had had enough, it was safe to go outside (this was at about 5p). and we discovered that there were two city blocks that still had power, and happily enough, they were the blocks with lots of restaurants on them, and many were already starting to open up.

so, we got some hot food and were fueled up to wait out the rest of the time before our power came back on. and miraculously, we were up and running in time to catch the last quarter of the game!

(wearing her UM onesie, she wasnt too excited about the game. although, it could have been that she was tired of being inside)

our total time without power was about 7 hours (the perks of living downtown: we get priority for power). and just like that, life was back to normal. i mean, there were some tree limbs down and other people dealing with some wind damage and power outages but the temperature was lovely and people we on the move.

(earls projected path from wednesday and thursday before the storm)

(path projection on friday and saturday morning. the saturday morning one notes the last minute change that put the center of the storm coming right through halifax)

02 September 2010

Red tape round-up

an update on our governmental saga.

today we had our appointment at the u.s. consulate for Xs citizenship and passport paperwork to be taken care of. we had to make the appointment a month in advance. in the meantime, we had to collect a certified copy of her birth certificate (different from her actual birth certificate), passport photos, a note from my doctor saying that X was my kid, and all of our other official documents (marriage license, our birth certificates, work permits, etc).

this morning we got up, packed our stack of items and walked down to the purdy towers on the waterfront. upon arriving at the consulate we had to leave our stroller in the hallway, be buzzed through the door, walk through a metal detector, and turn off our cell phone and stash it in my purse, both of which had to stay in a cubby hole at the entrance. only then were we able to sit down and wait for our name to be called to start our appointment.

after clarifying how to fill out a few sections on their stream of paperwork, making those updates, and waiting some more, we were signing the final documents and told that things were all set. supposedly her citizenship and passport can be taken care of in two weeks. i'll crap my pants if that actually happens. since when has the passport office ever worked so fast?

however, speaking of governmental speediness, we also recently got X her canadian passport. the canadian passport office is a block away from us, and that was nice because we ended up having to visit 3 times before we could actually get the passport paperwork filed. because we (the parents) arent canadian, they made us fill out extra paperwork. since we didnt qualify to fill out some of that required paperwork (had to have a canadian citizen with a valid passport who has known you for more than 2 years and can verify that X is ours) we had to fill out even more paperwork, and get it notarized. i swear, they just make you jump through all the hoops because a lazy criminal trying to scam the system would go insane attempting to forge all this stuff. anyway, we finally gathered it all (complete with friends amy and phil as our "references") and went to the passport office.

we were able to successfully file for her passport and were told it would come in two weeks. and, even though they had to personally call our two references to verify us, the passport really did come within that time limit. nice! and it only cost $20 (not including the $15 notary fee for some of the paperwork), and, for infants, you can update their passport photos until they are 3 years old for free!

in other canadian government news, we were also able to get a SIN (social insurance number, similar to the SSN) issued for her without any problem. and also, we successfully made it through a tax and tax refund cycle with the canadian government. unlike france...

on the france front, we are finally squared away. in the circular redundancy that is their system, they first sent us the small tax refund that was owed to us due to our small incomes. which we then had to turn around and mail to our french bank to be deposited into our account. then we had to transfer money from our canadian bank account into our french one to "top it up" to the amount needed to send back to the french government. so, we were finally able to send in the money for our late fee and non-income tax taxes that we still owed the government. BUT, it is finally done and settled (we think. ha.) and now we will be legally welcomed back into the country should we return to visit one day (and i sincerely hope that can be soon-ish).